Budding scientist Haytham Hashem, 6, said he hopes to celebrate his own July 4 birthday with a cake that launches fireworks.
As Haytham squirmed around Berkeley’s dining hall Saturday — too excited to eat brunch — his toothless grin showed that, at least for Haytham, Yale’s 300th birthday bash was just as explosive.
Haytham visited Yale this weekend with his family, including Nancy Rivera ’78. Rivera, who hails from Washington, D.C., was one of about 1,500 alums who traveled back to her alma mater for Tercentennial festivities, which included speeches, receptions and a lot of reminiscing, but lacked interaction with current undergraduates. Alums generally seemed thrilled with the chance to visit Yale again.
Rivera enjoyed several “wonderfully planned” speeches and events, but she said simply being on campus again was even more interesting.
Rivera attended Yale at the end of a radical era and the beginning of a time when the campus emphasized fun.
“And fun we had,” Rivera said.
Rivera’s freshman year was only the second one in which women from Puerto Rico were admitted to Yale.
“It was the first year men thought there were women suitable for dancing,” said Rivera, a Puerto Rico native, “so we had a lot of parties.”
But one thing has not changed through the years.
“There’s no school better than Yale,” Rivera told Haytham, a possible member of Yale’s Class of 2015. “This is it. Yale or bust.”
Later that afternoon Dick Jenkins ’45W chatted with Stanley Flink ’45W in Woolsey Hall, as the two awaited the weekend’s keynote speech by former President George H.W. Bush ’48.
Jenkins and Flink were roommates in Branford College over a half-century ago. They lived in “a theoretically two-person suite that housed five people,” Jenkins said.
He said Yale let everyone come back immediately after World War II ended, so the University became a very crowded place. But Jenkins said Yale’s extensive renovations since his college days are impressive and “make a big difference.”
Jenkins, who visits campus once a year, said this Tercenntenial trip was his best yet.
“Each Tercentennial event I go to is better than the last one, and that’s not putting any event down,” he said.
Jenkins said the best part of his weekend was a Saturday morning breakfast at Yale President Richard C. Levin’s house with his old friends, the former president and first lady, whom he knew during his time at Yale.
“It was nice,” Jenkins said. “We didn’t have anything to rush out to. We just sat around the table and talked informally for an hour.”
Even though his weekend lacked a special breakfast with the former president, Ed Loughlin ’62 said the Tercenntenial was “the most exciting thing I’ve experienced since my first day of frosh year.”
Loughlin said Yale has changed a lot since his time.
“In addition to the beautiful women so abundant on campus now, students seem to have a keen awareness of the relevance of education,” he said.
There hasn’t been as much change for Marilee Kline ’89 and Stephen Kline ’87, who met at the 1994 Harvard-Yale football game.
The happy couple sat hand-in-hand on a bench in Cross Campus Sunday morning, enjoying one last glimpse of their alma mater before their afternoon flight back to Pittsburgh.
Stephen Kline said he was somewhat intimidated to revisit Yale, fearing the trip would make him feel old, but then he saw the rest of the alums.
“We’re like the freshmen of the alumni crowd,” Kline said.
But youth did not work in the couple’s favor at lunch Saturday.
They sat at the same table as Levin, but Levin was busy talking to older alums, “probably ones who have money,” Stephen Kline said.
But the Klines enjoyed the Tercentennial weekend nonetheless.
“They had all the big guns out in terms of professors and special guests,” he said. “This is a first-class party they throw here.”
Marilee Kline, a history major, especially enjoyed a lecture about American frontiers by Howard Lamar, who was also her senior essay advisor.
Kline said Lamar had not changed much, but other things have.
“Holy smokes, that new gym is something else,” said Stephen Kline, while his wife said Broadway is “totally different.”
Stephen Kline did not visit his old room, but he said as he stood in the courtyard he could see flowers hanging in the window, “which was a far cry from when my roommates and I inhabited it.”
While Rivera, Jenkins, Loughlin and the Klines enjoyed Yale’s 300th birthday bash, they all said they wished it included more interaction with students.
Janet Linder, the director of the Tercentennial, said current students were represented at every event. But “there unfortunately wasn’t the time or the opportunity to sit down and talk with them,” Stephen Kline said.
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